Carla Nasca, PhD

Carla Nasca, PhD

Research Scientist
Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research
Nasca Lab Page
Faculty Research Associate
The Rockefeller University, New York, NY
P: (845)398-5423
F: (845)398-5422


M.S. (Molecular Biology), University of Palermo, Italy
Ph.D. (Neuropharmacology), Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Postdoctoral Training
Postdoctoral Fellow, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Rockefeller University,
New York, NY

Awards and Honors

2013 AAAS Excellence in Science Award, American Association for the Advancement of Science
2013 AFSP Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
2013 ECNP Fellowship Award, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology
2014 Best Ph.D. Thesis Award, Accademia Gioenia
2014 RTDF Proof-of-Concept Award, Robertson Therapeutic Development Fund
2014 6 SfN Neuroscience Hot Topic, Society for Neuroscience
2015 Career Development Award, PDA, Rockefeller University
2016 NYAS F1000 Prize, New York Academy of Sciences
2017 ACNP Travel Award, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
2018 ACSP New Investigator Award (NIA), American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology

Research Interests

Dr. Nasca’s research led to the doscovery of acetyl-L-carnitine (LAC) as a promising biological marker of depression and a modulator of brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to change and rewire. LAC is a metabolite found in the mitochondria, which is known as the powerhouse of the cell. Dr. Nasca demonstrated that LAC can turn on genes important for brain plasticity. This effect occurs primarily with genes related to the neurotransmitter, glutamate, in parts of the brain involved in emotion. In turn, administration of LAC can act as a rapid anti-depressant in mice exposed to chronic stress, a primary risk factor for depression. Dr. Nasca's current investigation established a broader link between LAC and metabolic problems of depression such as insulin resistance – a condition in which organs have trouble using glucose, the body’s main source of fuel. The translational work in humans suggests that LAC is a biomarker of depression associated with childhood trauma and resistance to traditional antidepressants. These novel insights into fundamental mechanisms of the brain increases our basic understanding of brain-body communication and opens the possibility for novel, more effective therapies for metabolic problems and depression in a way different from traditional antidepressants.


All publications